What Common Household Products Are Potentially Killing Us Today?: We bring you some panic over dryer sheets, fabric softeners, detergents, and solid, spray and plug-in air fresheners. “When UW engineering professor Anne Steinemann analyzed of some of these popular items, she found 100 different volatile organic compounds measuring 300 parts per billion or more — some of which can be cancerous or cause harm to respiratory, reproductive, neurological and other organ systems.” Rats. [Seattle P-I]

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  1. Sockatume says:

    The dose is the poison, as they say. I’m disappointed to see that the actual concentrations and safe levels of the compounds are omitted from the article, which means that it could be pure scaremongering for all we know. One of the groups questioned explicitly states that the toxic compounds are within safe limits.

    Outside of this patchy science the story is just a repetition of what we already know: bad things may be present in our products at dangerous levels, may hurt us or the environment, and people are concerned that some things are being missed or not being presented.

  2. bohemian says:

    I’m one of the unlucky people that has bad respiratory reactions to these synthetic fragrances. I can avoid using them at home but what is used in public places, stores and offices I can’t. There was also a study on what is in perfume and cologne and most contained the same crappy chemicals that cleaning products have.

    If your home is clean you don’t need to stink it up with the smell of fake apples.

  3. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    One eeeeeeeee-vil chemical in all these products, listed in the article, is ethanol.

    Ethanol.

    AKA booze.

    At the bottom it’s pretty much checked as a hazard all the way across the board. Puh-lease.

  4. Robobot says:

    I just moved into a shared house with some people who love those plug-in air fresheners. When I’m alone in the house I unplug them and feel fine after the air clears, but when everyone is here I have to plug them back in. Every morning that they are plugged in I wake up to a terrible headache. The headache never gets better over the course of the day and sometimes it just gets worse. Since last Saturday or so I have also had trouble breathing. Maybe I’m just extra sensitive to them, or allergic to some ingredient they contain, but I suspect it is more than that.

    Just another example of what these lovely chemicals can do to an otherwise perfectly heathy person.

  5. Oface says:

    @Quietly: Why not let them know this?

  6. People are so nuts about covering up the natural smells of the world. I wonder how most of us would have coped with the un-air conditioned world 100 years ago.

  7. SuffolkHouse says:

    If you have a with the fact that corporations aren’t required to put their poisons on their labels, please call the Consumer Product Safety Commission:

    (301) 504-7923

  8. Charred says:

    Life is a terminal disease. What’re ya gonna do?

  9. Myotheralt says:

    Lead paint was good enough for my parents.

  10. jdmba says:

    … and tastes great too!

  11. NumberFiveIsAlive says:

    Lead is old. Aluminum is where its at. Aluminum and copper.

  12. cerbie says:

    The scented fabric sheet makes your shirts and socks smell flowery fresh and clean. That plug-in air freshener fills your home with inviting fragrances of apple and cinnamon or a country garden.

    Advertising at its finest, I guess. Scented fabric sheets make your shirt smell like the dollar store Ajax knock-off. I just had some apple pie. Apple and cinnamon have a smell very different from what any Glade type thing claiming to smell like them has. I also have yet to smell anything plugged into a wall that smells like compost, grass, and flowers.

  13. TangDrinker says:

    @cerbie: Compost – yes!

    That’s what most of them smell like to me, anyways.

  14. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    “some of which can be cancerous or cause harm to respiratory, reproductive, neurological and other organ systems.” …Pfft, only in the State of California.

    @Applekid: “Ethanol. AKA booze. At the bottom it’s pretty much checked as a hazard all the way across the board. Puh-lease. “

    No kidding. Ethanol is AWESOME! I can drink it, AND run my FFV on it! And it smells pretty good, too. I put a little dab behind the ears every time I fill my tank. The gas station attendant gives me funny looks, but the chicks dig it!

  15. cjdmi says:

    “she found 100 different volatile organic compounds measuring 300 parts per billion or more”

    They’re not helping their cause by including common household chemicals in list. By their own measurements, alcohol-free beer (<0.5%) contains orders of magnitude more ethanol than the trace amounts found in these products. Throw in the various flavors of nail polish remover (acetone, ethylacetate,…) and you’ve got 2/3 of the list right there.

  16. yagisencho says:

    Perfumes and perfumed detergents make me wheeze all asthma-like. I eliminated them from our household nine years ago, much to the delight of my lungs.

  17. papahoth says:

    27000 Americans will die this year because of inadequate health insurance and therefore health care. Many will pass diseases to us that should have been treated. Poverty and the related filth that causes asthma will kill many more. Automobiles will kill over 30K Americans, a number that will probably decrease though this year, and you want me to worry about dryer sheets? Yea, right.

  18. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    Let’s not forget that these also contain dihydrogen monoxide, a proven deadly substance.

    Anything can kill ya. We’ve lessened the eeeeeevil “second-hand smoke” so now we need another target for the ills of America (because the real targets – cars and industry are off limits).

    Yes, it’s frightening that these DEADLY(!) chemicals are in these things, but they’re everywhere else in our biosphere. You think the stuff from the fabric softener ends up in some magic bottle to keep it away from us?

  19. Angryrider says:

    Man I don’t use any of those, and my ma tells me not to. She was right, although these things seem like a godsend, there’s nothin’ safe aboot ‘em. Must stop sniffing frebreze.

  20. geckospots says:

    Just open your window, or hang your laundry out every so often. Clean fresh scent (even in an urban residential area like mine) and you don’t have to pour chemicals on your clothes or your furniture to get it.

    Plus, those scented oil things leave an oily film on your stuff that will eventually get sticky and tough to clean off.

  21. TouchMyMonkey says:

    @bohemian: I’ve made special trips to J.C. Penney just so I could get an article of clothing off my body that was driving me absolutely bonkers. I asked my wife nicely not to use fabric softener, dryer sheets, or other perfume-laden laundry products because they drive me nuts, but it took pouring several bottles of Downy down the kitchen sink in front of her for her to finally get the message.

  22. ElizabethD says:

    I wonder what scented candles (hello, Yankee Candle, I’m lookin’ at you!) contain and if there are harmful chemicals mixed in there…

    We use all unscented laundry products. Hubby is ultra sensitive to odors. Now I find it weird when people’s dry laundry smells like Dreft or whatever. Don’t their clothes fight with their perfumes? (hey, perfume — what about those?)

    Life. It’s dangerous out here.

  23. ppiddy says:

    No doubt we have some dangerous stuff in our houses, but compare what we’re living with to what our parents were living with when they grew up. For god’s sake, they had lead in their paint and gasoline, asbestos in their homes, mercury in _everything_, etc. We still need to be aware of risks, but we’re much better off than we were 40 years ago.

  24. ogremustcrush says:

    Its so goofy that they have ethanol and isopropyl alcohol listed. Sure ethanol has some toxicity, if you drink a ton of it quickly. Ethanol isn’t a carcinogen itself either, its effects on the liver can be an aggravating factor in cancers, but only with long term heavy consumption. Many studies have found that one or two drinks a day is actually healthy and can extend your life. So the concentrations you would inhale (I presume?) from these products would have no effect whatsoever. As for isopropyl alcohol, it does have a much much higher toxicity than ethanol, but if you don’t drink it or inhale liquid directly into your lungs, the worst it will do to you with normal usage and external contact is dry out your skin. I always keep a spray bottle of isopropyl alcohol around, its a very versatile cleaner, antiseptic, and disinfectant. It has yet to hurt me.

  25. failurate says:

    @HurtsSoGood: You have to throw the empty bottles hard on the ground in her direction while screaming at her in German for added dramatic effect.
    You will never win an Oscar.

  26. Balentius says:

    @cjdmi: That was my thought too – I always love it when they start tossing around huge numbers and expect everyone to cower in fear… Of alcohol! Or even worse, “organic compounds”!

    …wait, I thought that anything organic was good for you? I’m so confused… :)

  27. synergy says:

    @bohemian:

    If your home is clean you don’t need to stink it up with the smell of fake apples.

    Well said! Throw open a window every once in a while and for heaven’s sakes get rid of carpeting!

  28. mannyv says:

    “I always keep a spray bottle of isopropyl alcohol around, its a very versatile cleaner, antiseptic, and disinfectant. It has yet to hurt me.”

    Just as an FYI, isopropyl alcohol’s MDS states explicitly that skin contact is a bad thing. For more info:

    [en.wikipedia.org]

    In general, it may be better to just use a normal hand cleaner than spraying a CNS depressent on your skin and general environment.

    In some countries Isopropyl alcohol is used as a general cleaner and hand wash. I have no idea how that started, but in general there are less toxic and more effective ways of cleaning than using this stuff. Maybe people just associate the smell with cleanliness?

  29. Wormfather is Wormfather says:

    More importantly: what is the cancer that is killing /b

  30. goldenmonkey says:

    Maybe that explains why every time I do the laundry at my parents’ house with their concentrated laundry detergent and wear the clothes the next day it seems to trigger the beginnings of menstruation. Even if my period were the week before and no way in hell due.

  31. cerbie says:

    @papahoth: red herring, appeal to emotion. Dryer sheets are isolated from automobile deaths and lack of health insurance.

  32. papahoth says:

    @cerbie: excepts the odds are way greater, of me or you dying in a car accident than by dryer sheets. Dying of dryer sheets is about the same odds of dying by terrorists.

  33. cerbie says:

    @papahoth: no one has any data to support or deny that. We don’t know if anyone has died, ever, from dryer sheets. If they have, how would you know? “Your lung cancer was caused by Downy.” I doubt a doctor has ever said that, ya know?

    After that, there is still the problem of not having anything to do with the subject at hand. Your chances of getting cancer (or something else) from scented crap has nothing to do with your chances of dying in a car wreck. The chances are not comparable. Attempting to do so is a job for politicians.

    Best yet, I missed this bit when first reading your comment:

    Poverty and the related filth that causes asthma will kill many more.

    This crap is a part of that, “related filth.” Er, and poverty does not cause asthma.